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How to Become a Professional Image Consultant

“Image” is a physical representation or mental conception of something perceived by the general public. Personal Image is a non-verbal representation that expresses one’s physical and mental state of being that influences how people respond or react to them. A personal image consultant or fashion consultant is a professional hired to advise on public presentation, personal appearance, and personal style. Ultimately, an image consultant provides individual and corporate services through workshops, seminars, consultations, group presentations, and “one on one” training.
These services are intended to enhance your image by improving your appearance, attitude, communication, social etiquette, and business etiquette. Essentially, an image consultant’s job is to help individuals make a lasting impression on others in order to help them achieve their goals. Everyone has different goals.  These goals may include making a good impression, getting a new job, a promotion, or simply just feeling good about themselves.

 If you are looking to hire an image consultant or have decided that you want to become an image consultant, the following qualifications are necessary in order to develop the skills you will need.

College Degree in a Fashion Related Field – Curriculums such as Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, Textile Design, and Fabric Styling are all fields of study that offer a Bachelor Degree.  Specialized Universities like NYU partner with technical colleges in order to provide full curriculums and resources.  The Fashion Institute of Technology and Parson’s School of Design are just a few examples.  Studying a related field at either one of these colleges provides you some basic tools necessary to pursue a career in image or fashion consulting.  These programs teach you about fabrics, textiles, pattern making, draping, color matching, fabric dyes, and other fields of study that contribute to the apparel industry.   Being knowledgeable and educated in any one of these fields allow you to fully understand garment construction, garment care, color coordination, fabric construction, fabric weight, printed and woven fabrics, fabric styling, accent colors, analogous colors, styling details, and other technical concepts.  Ultimately, these tools help to provide a full understanding of a garment from inception to completion.  An image consultant should be able to answer any question from an educated perspective as opposed to speculation or personal preference.  Giving a client bad or incorrect advice is unacceptable.  Whether you are designing and/or manufacturing a clothing line, tailoring garments, or shopping with clients, an image consultant should be able to answer these simple questions:

  1. What’s the name for clothing fundamentals? (referring to darts, pleats, rouging, or any other styling detail)
  2. What is a good bottom color for me? ( referring to bottom weights vs top weights)
  3. What kind of fabric is this?
  4. What kind of pattern is this?
  5. How was this made?
  6. How do I clean this?
  7. Will this shrink?
  8. Will this stretch?
  9. What can I wear this with?
  10. Do these fabrics match?
  11. Can I wear this in the summer? (referring to fabric quality and weight)
  12. Can this be altered?
  13. What happens if I sweat? (referring to fiber content and color bleeding)
  14. How should I store this in the summer or winter?

Job Experience and Opportunities - A career in the fashion industry prepares an image consultant with real life experience and expertise when earning a degree from an accredited college or institution. A career in a fashion related industry also validates the consultant’s area of expertise. Most fashion consultants specialize in a specific area while others tend to offer general services and advice they may not be qualified or experienced to offer.  For an expert opinion, avoid companies or individuals that are “self proclaimed” image consultants. For example:

  • Boutique or Store Owners - Boutique owners are great at giving fashion advice and recommendations. However, their advice is limited and only includes recommendation for the merchandise found in their store.  An image consultant should always provide unbiased advice that is solely intended for the client’s needs.  Recommending different brands, stores, styles, colors, textures, and sizes are an important part of creating individual style.  A consultant should never limit the choices available to the customer by self promoting brands for personal advancement.
  • Department Store Salesperson - Department store employees usually recommend higher priced garments because their job is commission based.  Keep in mind that while they may have a good eye for trends, their recommendations are not based on your physical elements or personality. They will usually promote the “best selling” or “newest” garment. Retail sales people are not educated or qualified to provide you with an image consultation and are “self proclaimed” style guides and personal shoppers. 
  • Make-Up Artists / Hairstylist – While hair and make-up professionals add certain elements to your overall look, these individuals do not have a background in fashion, style, or etiquette that would enable them to provide image consulting services.  A professional image consultant usually has an experienced beauty team that works with them to provide make-over services. Hairstylists do not take the time to understand your lifestyle or personality.  How many times have you walked out of a hair salon unsatisfied because your voice was not heard?  Trendy salons are notorious for cutting and styling your hair around the latest fad. This is never a good idea as your hair style and color should highlight your facial features. 
  • Style Web Sites and Blogs – Sometimes the information found on these types of sites is false. They are notorious for providing generic and out dated information.  Its questionable where their information comes from and what credentials the writers hold.  Sometimes information is reprocessed or re-written from other websites.  There is no way to personalize this advice. Many times the advice and tips you get are misleading and will result in a fashion disaster.

These are just a few things to be aware of and to avoid if you are seeking to become a professional image consultant or looking to hire one.  There is nothing worse than getting bad advice. An image consultant should be an expert in the field of fashion, style, beauty, communication, and etiquette. Hiring a person to take control of your appearance should have the following job experience or background in order to provide you with an expert opinion and exceptional service.

  • Fashion Design Experience – As a fashion designer, one understands the objective and capabilities that a garment provides.  They understand the different styles that are available and how they will affect the appearance of one’s body.  A fashion designer works directly with different body shapes (forms) in order to produce a sample garment.  They have a complete understanding of different body structures, shapes, and sizes.  This in turn allows them to provide different styles and silhouettes that will flatter your figure and proportions.   A consultant with a design background is usually willing to reconstruct garments for you or update certain style elements.  This is a great way to update old pieces in your wardrobe. Sometimes garments just need a nip tuck, princess seams or new shiny buttons!  Designers spend a lot of time shopping in the European, Asian, and American markets. They are familiar with essentially every clothing label and designer brand available to consumers which help when selecting the best stores and style suited for your needs.  Their opinions are informative rather than biased!
  • Textile Designers / Fabric Stylists – An image consultant with a textile design background is hard to come by.  These creative individuals design woven, knitted, and printed fabric.  They have an extraordinary eye for color, patterns, and fabric. These designers can put outfits together based on these elements in their sleep.  An image consultant grounded in textile design or fabric styling has the ability to select fabrics, colors, and pattern based on your proportions and body structure.  They know how to read and translate color which helps when you have your colors personalized with a color analysis.  They will help you understand your skin tones and provide you with a wealth of information that will blow your mind!  A consultant cultivated in textile design knows how to apply fabrics, patterns, and accent colors into your wardrobe so you can mix and match your garments with little effort!
  • Fashion Merchandising – Fashion merchandisers usually work with fashion designers.  They have a distinct ability to put things together in a visually stimulating way.  An image consultant with a fashion merchandising background has an excellent eye for fashion, style, and composition.  Putting colors, styles, and patterns together comes naturally to them.  They can walk into your closet and arrange new outfits without you ever spending a dime! 
  • Editorial Fashion – The experience you receive working at a well regarded fashion publication in the editorial department is priceless.  Although the salary is poor, the fringe benefits are richly rewarding.   An image consultant with fashion editorial experience has first hand runway and photo shoot experience.   They work with make-up artists, hair stylists, and designers in order to coordinate the most famous makeovers fashion week has to offer.  One must be familiar with clothing brands, designers, and style. Editorial fashion tends to be more edged and stylized than everyday fashion.  An image consultant with an editorial background can create unique style and find the right combinations for an overall balanced look.

In conclusion, an image consultant or fashion consultant evaluates your overall appearance, attitude, personality, lifestyle, and social activities to help individuals make a lasting impression on others in order to achieve their goals.  If you are interested in becoming an image consultant, it is crucial to take the above steps to be successful and obtain professional status.   Image is more than having the ability to dress your friends or mannequins.  It requires an education, degree, job experience, and much more. If you are looking to hire a personal stylist or consultant, be sure to find a professional who can advance your image and teach you along the way!

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